MonthMarch 2013

Court dismisses City Harvest Church member’s application to hire QC

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1257953/1/.html

By Kimberly Spykerman | Posted: 05 March 2013 1327 hrs

SINGAPORE: The High Court on Tuesday dismissed an application by City Harvest Church member Chew Eng Han to engage a Queen’s Counsel to defend him. He is one of six church leaders accused of conspiring to cheat the church of millions of dollars.

City Harvest Church investment manager Chew Eng Han wanted an elite lawyer to fight his case in the upcoming criminal breach of trust trial.

He claimed he could not find a local senior counsel with the appropriate expertise to assist him, and wanted to enlist the help of a Queen’s Counsel from the UK.

Chew, together with five other church leaders, is accused of funnelling S$24 million into sham bond investments to further the career of pop singer Sun Ho — the wife of the church’s senior pastor, Kong Hee.

The six are also said to have misappropriated another S$26.6 million dollars to cover up the first sum.

On Tuesday, Chew’s application to engage a Queen’s Counsel was dismissed by High Court Judge VK Rajah.

Justice Rajah said the legal and factual issues of the case are not complex and do not involve novel points of law that cannot be managed by a competent local counsel.

Chew’s lawyer, Mr P.E Ashokan, had put forth the argument that there were novel issues in the case that would require a Queen’s Counsel’s expertise, highlighting that the decision of the case would have serious repercussions on the dynamics and boundaries of corporate governance for charitable or religious entities.

He added that Chew’s case not only provided an opportunity to examine the issues and dynamics of corporate governance in the context of propagating faith, but would help illuminate as to whether there could be criminal intention when the money was ultimately used to fund a project that met the church’s aim of spreading the Christian faith.

Justice Rajah said these were “overstatements” and added that he did not find that there were legal issues with wider ramifications. Justice Rajah also noted that Chew had failed to identify any exceptional circumstances that required the services of foreign legal counsel, and that his efforts to engage local legal counsel were neither objectively reasonable nor conscientious.

He observed that some senior counsels Chew approached had not appeared in court for a considerable amount of time, and noted that a substantial pool of competent lawyers remained to be tapped on.

Justice Rajah said that “the documents, though voluminous, are not beyond the management of competent local counsel.” He added that Chew was the “sole author of his predicament”.

On Monday, the lawyer for the Law Society, Christopher Daniel, had raised the point that Chew was adamant on engaging only a senior counsel, and not lawyers with the expertise to run his defence.

When asked if he plans to look outside of the senior counsel circle, Chew said he has not formed any concrete plans and may have to be open to anything if left without a choice.

“It’s natural that when someone is fighting for his life, he will look for the best,” he told reporters.

The trial is slated to begin in May this year. Chew said that if it becomes necessary and that he needs time to prepare his lawyer, he will ask for a deferment of dates.

– CNA/ck/ac

Trial involving City Harvest Church leaders to start on 15 May

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1258678/1/.html

By Claire Huang | Posted: 08 March 2013 1454 hrs

SINGAPORE: The high-profile trial involving six City Harvest Church leaders is now slated to start on 15 May.

The first tranche of the trial is expected to go on till 23 May.

Speaking after a pre-trial conference on Friday afternoon, the prosecutors and lawyers involved in this case said one of the defendants, Chew Eng Han, will be represented by Senior Counsel Michael Khoo.

This comes after Chew’s application to engage a Queen’s Counsel was dismissed by High Court Judge V K Rajah on Tuesday.

Chew, the church’s investment manager, had said then that he could not find a local senior counsel with the appropriate expertise to assist him, and wanted to enlist the help of a Queen’s Counsel from the United Kingdom.

Chew, together with five other church leaders including founder Kong Hee, is accused of funnelling S$24 million into sham bond investments to further the career of pop singer Sun Ho.

Ms Ho is the wife of the church’s senior pastor, Kong Hee.

The six are alleged to have misappropriated another S$26.6 million to cover up the first sum.

– CNA/xq

Court hears City Harvest Church member’s application to hire QC

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1257822/1/.html

Investment manager Chew Eng Han (L), a senior church member of the City Harvest Church.

By Kimberly Spykerman | Posted: 04 March 2013 2154 hrs

SINGAPORE: One of the City Harvest Church members embroiled in the multi-million dollar criminal breach of trust trial wants a Queen’s Counsel — Caplan Jonathan Michael, who has experience in serious fraud cases and cases involving Criminal Breach of Trust — to defend him, and a court hearing into that application began on Monday.

The church’s investment manager Chew Eng Han said there is a lack of available local senior counsel with the appropriate expertise to represent him.

Lawyer P.E. Ashokan argued that Chew had taken reasonable steps to secure a local senior counsel to fight his case. He had engaged two senior counsel in the early stages of the criminal proceedings, but due to issues of conflict, they were unable to act for him. Mr Ashokan noted that efforts to engage other local senior counsel had come to naught.

“Therefore it is clear that Mr Chew is unable to engage a local senior counsel to defend him in the criminal proceedings through no fault of his, and due to very exceptional circumstances where most of the senior counsel in Singapore are unable to act for him,” he added.

His case is also unique in that he faces the possibility of unequal representation as all but one of the other five co-accused have hired senior counsel to defend them.

Chew is among six church leaders accused of conspiring to cheat the church of millions of dollars. They are alleged to have funnelled S$24 million into sham bond investments to further the career of senior pastor Kong Hee’s pop singer wife, Sun Ho.

The six are also said to have misappropriated another S$26.6 million to cover up the first sum.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Public Prosecutor and the Law Society have all raised objections to the application, saying that the legal and factual issues of the case are not complex enough to require specialist foreign senior counsel.

The Law Society said that there are lawyers in Singapore, who may not necessarily be senior counsel, with the relevant expertise who can run Chew’s defence but have not been approached.

Ms Aurill Kam, who represented the AGC, described Mr Ashokan’s point of the case being complex as an “exaggerated claim”. Mr Ashokan had pointed out that the documents relating to the transactions are voluminous, with statements from the accused persons alone numbering about 8,000 pages.

Ms Kam rebuked this, saying Mr Ashokan’s claim conflates volume with complexity.

Mr Christopher Daniel, who represented the Law Society threw up some names and said that there was no explanation as to why these lawyers were not approached.

“One can make the point that he (Chew) wanted a senior counsel, and not to find a lawyer with the expertise who can run his defence,” he noted. This prompted Justice V.K Rajah to point out that most senior counsels specialise in commercial matters, and that the best criminal lawyers are not senior counsels.

Justice V.K. Rajah will deliver his verdict on Tuesday.

-CNA/ac